Jean-François Colson wrote: So my question was: "Do some dialects make a slight > phoneTic distinction between the /k/ of cat and the /k/ of key?" Quick answer w.r.t. those two words: no, or at best a slight difference. The position of the tongue naturally anticipates the location of a following vowel, so there are allophonic differences between /k/ before front vowels and /k/ before back vowels, but that apparently was not what the ITA was trying to say. The /k/s in "cot, cool, caught etc." are true velars; the /k/s in "key, Kate, kelp etc" are indeed fronted to palato-velar or palatal. The same is true, I suspect, in your own French (try "quatre, coup" vs. "qui, quelle") and <sweeping generalization> probably in every human language. Fronting of velars before front V is also seen in the German ach-laut vs. ich-laut; both sounds presumably represent the same _phoneme_ /x/ though they are phonetically quite distinct. (The vowel of "cat" is front, but also low; and there is less front/back difference in the low vowels; still "cat" has a slightly fronted /k/.) A couple things were unclear to me in the ITA. (1) Is the "backward z" (for "s" = [z]) used only mophophonemically (as the ex. "birdz" implies), or would it also be used in "rose"? (2) Given its use of c=k along with k=k, why not also distinguish c=s, which is probably a greater problem to beginners?